< Back

Russo-Jewish Immigrants in England Before 1881

A. R. Rollin

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Russo-Jewish Immigrants in England before 1881 A. R. ROLLIN The year 1881 is generally given as the genesis of the Russo-Jewish immigration in Britain, For example, Professor Leonard Schapiro, in his paper 'The Russian Background to the Anglo-American Jewish Immigration,'1 stated that 'our story begins in 1881'. The thousands of immigrants who came from the Tsarist Empire to this country before 1881 are almost ignored or mentioned in passing. It is true, of course, that the horrible pogroms and savage oppression of the Jews by the Russian Government in 1881 and onwards led to their mass emigration in hundreds of thousands to new countries, especially America and Eng? land. But when these emigrants came to the new countries they found there substantial settlements of earlier Russo-Jewish immigrants, who played an important part in assisting and absorbing them. The Russian Empire has always been a cruel stepmother to her Jewish inhabitants, who often had to flee in order to save their lives and self respect. As far back as 1568, in the war between the Russians and Poles over Smolensk, the Russian tyrant Ivan the Terrible (1533? 1584), having captured the city of Polotsk on the River Western Dvina, ordered its several hundred Jews, who refused to be baptised, to be drowned in the river. Thirty years after the death of Ivan the Terrible, the Romanoff dynasty of Russian Tsars was founded by Michael Feodorovitch (1613-1645). This dynasty reigned over the Russian Empire for 300 years, until the last of them, Nicholas II, and his family perished in the Revolution of 1917. The treatment of the Jews by the Romanoff rulers was, with very few exceptions, in the spirit of Ivan the Terrible. Even towards the end of last century, when Jewish emancipation was officially proclaimed throughout the Western world, the head of the holy Synod in Russia, Pobiedonostzeff, main adviser to the brutal Tsar Alexander III (1881-1894), de? fined the solution of the Jewish question in Russia thus: one-third to be compelled to adopt Christianity; one-third to perish from starvation; and one-third to be forced to emigrate. To describe at some length the various oppressive measures against the Jews adopted by the Russian rulers would go beyond the limits of this paper. I shall, therefore, confine myself to the period between 1825 and 1881. It is, however, necessary to describe briefly the Jewish background in Russia and to mention the two major Jewish tragedies in that country in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which had a bearing on the earlier Anglo Jewish resettlement period. The Russian rulers looked upon the Jews as innorodtsy (strangers in the land), although in actual fact large parts of the Russian Empire contained numerous Jewish communities long before the Russians came there. Armenian and Georgian historians2 state that after the destruction of the First Temple (587 b.c.e.) Nebuchadnezzar deported many Jewish cap? tives to Armenia and the Caucasus. At the time of the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 g.e. there were, according to Dr. Arthur Ruppin,3 only one million Jewish inhabitants in Palestine, as against three and a half million scattered mainly in the Near East and also in Italy and Byzantium. During the first few centuries of the Christian Era, the Jewish inhabitants on the Crimean Peninsula were greatly increased by fugitives from Palestine and Byzantium. They moved east? wards and northwards, establishing important communities as far as Kiev and on the shores of the Caspian Sea as far as the Volga. They carried with them a civilisation more advanced than that of the native tribes, exerting a con? siderable influence on the latter. Thus, they came into contact with the Chazars4 ('Kozrim' in Hebrew), a people of Finnish origin, who established a powerful kingdom in the second century on the shores of the Caspian and Azov seas, with their 202</page><page sequence="2">Russo-Jewish Immigrants in England before 1881 203 capital city near the mouth of the Volga. In the seventh century, the Chazar King Bulan,5 his grandees, and many of his people adopted the Jewish religion. The spread of Judaism among the Chazar people was accelerated owing to the religious zeal of King Obadiah,6 a successor to Bulan, who invited Jewish scholars to teach his people the Bible, built synagogues, and brought order into the liturgy. All the Chazar kings following Bulan bore Biblical names and one of the last of them, Joseph, had an extensive correspondence with Hasdai Ibn Shaprut,7 the Jewish Foreign Minister of the Sultan of Cordova during the Moorish occupation of Spain (about 950 c.e.). Unfortunately, in the next century, the Russian Prince Swiatoslaw of Kiev,8 assisted by Byzantium (both of the Greek Orthodox Church), conquered the Jewish Kingdom of Chazaria, which never rose again. At that time the Jewish communities in the Christian countries of Western and Central Europe suffered terribly from frequent mass? acres and expulsions. The martyrdom of the Jews was particularly tragic during the time of the Crusades, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries and later on, especially during the time of the Black Death in 1348-1349. Large numbers of German and Bohemian Jews escaped to the neighbouring countries of Poland and Lithuania, where they were given protection by most of the rulers of those countries and their feudal barons and land? owners. The latter recognised the usefulness of the Jews for the development of trade and com? merce. The fierce anti-Jewish agitation by the Catholic clergy did not as yet influence the rulers of Poland and Lithuania, where the Christian religion was adopted much later than in Western Europe. Dubnow9 states that at the beginning of the sixteenth century the Jews in Poland became a strong economic and social power without which the country could not be managed. The Polish Government was convinced that just as the State was useful to the Jews, the latter were as useful to the State as urban trading com? munities, forming the middle class between the peasant agricultural workers and the squire landowners. Thus Poland, which united with Lithuania in the sixteenth century, became the haven of refuge for exiles from Western Europe, and the Jewish population there was at that time greater than in any other European country. The Polish-Lithuanian Jew had no resi? dential or trading restrictions and had complete social and judicial autonomy, which led to the evolution of a specific Jewish civilisation. The Rabbi was not only the spiritual head but also a member of the communal administration (Kahal), a civil judge and the authoritative expounder of the law. Rabbinism was not a dead letter, but a guiding religio-judicial system on the basis of Talmudic legislation. At the same time, a wider legislative authority was created: the Council of the Four Lands (Vaad Arba Arazot), consisting of Rabbinic and lay representatives of the communities of Little Poland, Greater Poland, Russia, and Lithuania. This Council, (or 'Synod', according to Graetz10) met twice a year, generally at the fairs of Lublin and Yaroslaw, to pronounce judgment upon disputes between communities and appeals against decisions of the local Kahal. Accordingly, the study of the Talmud and Rabbinical literature reached extra? ordinary heights during the sixteenth and first half of the seventeenth centuries. Poland be? came the spiritual centre for Jewry in the same way as Babylonia was in ancient times and Spain in the Middle Ages. In the middle of the seventeenth century disaster overtook Polish-Lithuanian Jewry. In the eastern parts of Poland (known today as the Ukraine), the majority of the peasants pro? fessed the Russian Greek Orthodox religion, while the landowning shliachta (squires) were Polish Roman Catholics, who oppressed their peasants both economically and religiously. The Jews were often the instruments of this oppression by acting as agents and tax collectors for the squires, and thus shared the hatred of the peasants. This hatred was utilised in the terrible revolt against Poland by the Cossack leader Bogdan Chmielnitsky,11 whom both Tsarist and Soviet Russia proclaimed as a great Russian national hero. Chmielnitsky gathered a large army</page><page sequence="3">204 A. R. Rollin consisting of Cossacks and peasants who lived on the banks of the Dnieper, made a treaty with the Tartars of the Crimea, and then started his war against the Poles and the Jews. The Polish army which was sent to put down the uprising was defeated and the wild hordes of Cossacks and Russian peasants, under the leadership of Chmielnitsky, spread out along the whole of the Ukraine and neighbouring provinces, brutally destroying and killing entire communities of Poles and Jews. The greatest acts of barbarism were committed against the Jews. In the town of Nemirov, 6,000 Jews perished; in Tultchin, over 2,000 Jews were killed through a betrayal of the Poles, who were subsequently also killed by the Cossacks.12 These massacres continued throughout 1648 and part of 1649, until some sort of temporary peace was arranged with the Cossacks by Yan Kazimir, the newly elected king. However, war soon broke out again, and this time the Russians came to the aid of the Cossacks, annexing half of the Ukraine in 1654. Together with the Cossacks, the Tsar's armies entered White Russia and Lithuania. The large Jewish communities of Wilna, Minsk, Kovno, and other towns shared the same fate as the Ukraine communities during the 1648-1649 disasters. This war lasted for two years (1654-1655), but shortly afterwards the Jewish communities of Poland proper, from Posen to Cracow, suffered destruction through the Swedish War against Poland, which lasted until 1658. It is estimated13 that during these ten tragic years (1648-1658) some 700 Jewish com? munities were sacked and over half a million Jews killed. Tens of thousands escaped death by flight to other parts of Europe and Central Asia. Graetz describes the position of these refugees as follows:14 [During the Cossack-Polish War] fugitive Jews were to be met with, wretched in appearance, with hollow eyes, who had escaped the bath of blood, burning hunger, and sickness; or who, having been dragged by the Tartars into captivity and ransomed by their brothers, sought shelter anywhere. Westwards, past the Danube and the Vistula districts, Jewish-Polish fugitives wandered to Amsterdam and were forwarded thence to Frankfort-on-Main and other Rhenish cities. Three thousand Lithuanian Jews came to Texel in the Netherlands, and were hospit? ably received. Southwards, many fled to Moravia, Bohemia, Austria, and Hungary and wandered from those places to Italy. . . . Everywhere they were received by their brethren with great cordiality and love, cared for, clothed, and supported. The Italian Jews performed their duty of ransoming and supporting them at great sacrifice. Thus the community of Leghorn15 at this time formed a resolution to raise and spend a quarter of their income for the liberation and main? tenance of the unfortunate Polish Jews. It is to be regretted that the attitude and action of the English Jewish community to? wards the Polish-Jewish sufferers of that time was quite the reverse of the cordiality and love shown by other Jewish communities. Accord? ing to the late Lucien Wolf,16 the suffering of the fugitives from the Ghmielnitsky massacres was well known in this country. The journals of the day, Wolf notes, devoted considerable space to it and specially noted that Hamburg was full of fugitive Polish Jews, and he goes on to point out that Menasseh ben Israel himself told Cromwell about the Jewish suffering in Poland, Lithuania, and Russia and used this as an argument in favour of his petition for the readmission of his brethren to England. Yet, when these fugitives started coming into England in 1663, the local Sephardi com? munity (the Ashkenazi community was not yet established) did very little to help them and everything to prevent them from entering and staying in this country. James Picciotto17 writes: In 1670, it was found necessary to decree that all foreigners coming from abroad for assistance, should depart within five days from the shores of England?soon afterwards it was ordered that no foreigner should be admitted as member of the congregation, or even be allowed to attend divine service, until he satisfied the Wardens as to his possession of the means of subsistence. Nevertheless, poor Jews from Holland and Poland con</page><page sequence="4">Russo-Jewish Immigrants in England before 1881 205 tinued to flock over and additional laws were made on the subject, probably with as little results as the previous enactments. Members of the congregation were strictly enjoined not to raise subscriptions for any foreigners, nor to canvass in their favour, nor in any way to encourage their presence. This attitude is more than surprising in a wealthy community whose ancestors suffered so much on account of their religion. It may be explained, if not excused, by the fact that at that period the Jews in this country were not yet quite firmly established. Unfortunately, we find a somewhat similar attitude to new immigrants more than a century later on the part of the Ashkenazi community in London, which was compara? tively numerous and well established. To quote Lucien Wolf again:18 After the foundation of Duke's Place Synagogue in 1722, the Ashkenazi body multiplied rapidly. The persecution in Bohemia in 1744 helped to swell the influx and in 1753 the community had increased to 8,000 souls. A fresh wave of destitute immi? gration was driven westward by the Polish War of 1768 and the claims upon the Zedaka chest of the Duke's Place Synagogue became so numerous that the Wardens refused relief to foreign Jews 'who had left their country without good cause'. The Polish War of 1768 mentioned above was a terrible tragedy for the Jews of the Polish Ukraine, who were massacred by the Haida macks (a combination of Cossacks and Russian peasants) in a way similar to the Chmielnitsky massacres of 120 years earlier. Surely to escape from such massacres was a cause good enough to merit compassion! The Ashkenazi community, with its three synagogues, 'could not plead the excuse of poverty, for although the majority of their members were the reverse of affluent, the well to-do and even wealthy families were certainly not few'.19 Yet the leaders of the community at that time had no organised system of poor relief or rehabilitation, with the result that many of the poor Jews drifted into crime to sustain themselves. When the Home Office remonstrated with the Synagogue on the large number of poor and shiftless Jews in London, the Wardens blamed the disturbed state of Poland and the easy facilities for foreigners to enter this country. They even petitioned the Home Office to take steps to restrict the influx of poor foreigners, who suffered bitterly as a result of it. However, the Napoleonic Wars virtually stopped the Jewish immigration into England and by 1815, when peace was restored in Europe, there was in Britain a Jewish com? munity of some 20,000 to 30,000 souls, of whom about two-thirds lived in London.20 (Only some 3,000 belonged to the Sephardi community.) The majority of the poor destitute Jews of a quarter of a century before succeeded in establishing themselves in London or in the provinces. The 'disturbed state of Poland' referred to above, which was caused by attacks from without (mainly by Russia) and by the dissensions among the nobility within the country, resulted in the disappearance of Poland as an independent State. It did not revive again as such until after the First World War. The once vast country of Poland was gradu? ally partitioned up among its three neighbours, Austria, Prussia, and Russia, the last-named getting the lion's share. The first partition took place in 1772, the second in 1793, and the last in 1795. A general rising took place in 1794, under the leadership of the Polish patriot Kosciuszko. In this rising, a Jewish Regiment of Light Cavalry, raised and led by Berek Joselowitch, bravely fought and perished in defence of Praga, a suburb of Warsaw, but the rising was crushed by the Russian forces under General Suvoroff.21 Thus, towards the end of the eighteenth century, the majority of the numerous Polish Jews became Russian subjects. (Only Galicia was given to Austria, while Posen and Pomerania were given to Prussia.) The Russian rulers promised their newly acquired Jewish population the same rights as they had had formerly. In actual practice, however, they treated the Jews in the traditional harsh and brutal manner of the Tsars, giving those Jews who were able to sufficient cause to leave that</page><page sequence="5">206 A. R. Rollin country. In addition to the creation of what was called the 'Pale of Settlement' for the Jews, expulsions from the villages and forcible removals to the near-by already overcrowded towns were also conducted. Matters became worse when Tsar Nicholas I came to the Russian throne in December 1825, after crushing a military uprising led by enlightened Russian officers and nobles, who demanded a constitutional form of govern? ment. Nicholas I became known as the Gendarme of Europe when his military forces crushed the Hungarian Revolution in 1848. Towards the Jews, he was tyrannical and merciless. Of all the Russian legal enactments concerning Jews (generally oppressive) from 1649 to 1881, no fewer than 600, or one half, were made in the reign of Nicholas I. The worst enactment remembered by the Russian Jews was one of 1827, forcing the Kehilla to recruit ten boys from the age of 12 onwards, for every thousand souls in the Jewish population, to serve in the Russian Army for 25 years. This quota was much heavier than for the Christian population and was catastrophic for the Jews, because the boys taken for rigorous military training were also forced to adopt the Greek Orthodox religion. These recruits were known as 'cantonists' and not many survived the 25 years' suffering. Those who did return to their families as Jews were known as Nicholas Soldiers and were permitted to live outside the Jewish Pale of Settlement. Alexander Herzen, the famous Russian radical writer and political exile of the 1850s, tells of meeting a party of drafted young Jews on the road to the faraway Russian town of Viatka. It was in the middle of winter and children were lying half-frozen at a stopping place. In answer to Herzen's question, the officer in charge of the convoy informed him, 'A third of the young Jews fall by the way. Half of them will never reach their destination.' Herzen added that the painful and horrible impression of this helpless, frozen party of children remained with him for the rest of his life. It was natural for the parents to try and save their children from such a fate, and those who could do so escaped from Russia.22 A considerable number of Jewish emigrants from Russia at that period evidently arrived in England. In an article by the American Jewish historian, I. Lipshitz, on the 'Russo-Polish Immigration in America',23 he states: 'The first East European Jewish immigrants nearly all came by way of England. A German Jewish correspondent writing from New York in 1846 stated that there were (in New York) only a small number of English Jews, but quite a large number of Polish Jews, who came over after having spent a lengthy time in England and adopted the English way of life'. One of the emigrants who stayed on in England was Moses Zangwill, the father of Israel Zangwill, our Anglo-Jewish novelist and early Zionist leader. Moses Zangwill was born in Raveniski, a small town in Latvia, where some members of the Zangwill family still lived before the last war.24 Young Moses, when he was barely twelve years old, was pressed into the Russian Army as a cantonist for 25 years' service. He was, however, fortun? ate enough to escape from the barracks and he came to England in 1848. Israel Zangwill's cousins were the well known Zionist pioneers Dr. David Eder25 and Joseph Cowen,26 whose parents were, appar? ently, also emigrants from Russia. Moses Zangwill, like most of the Jewish immigrants at that time, took up peddling for a living but evidently did not make much progress, for in the 1860s we find him working in a tailor's shop. Another interesting immigrant (this time to a provincial English town), who escaped from the Nicholas Army, was Barnet Bernstein, whose story is told by the late Arnold Levy in his fine History of the Sunderland Community.2'7 Barnett Bernstein, the son of a struggling carpenter, was forcibly taken into the Tsar's army as a lad. After some years of service, he was allowed to visit his parents in Krottingen, in Lithuania, and from there he escaped to England. He was the first Krottinger to settle in Sunderland in about 1859. Bernstein was soon followed by relatives and friends, many of whom eventually became prominent members of the Sunderland community. Another fugitive from the Nicholas Army was Samuel Manham, who came to Leeds in 1852. His marriage in 1860 was No. 22 in the</page><page sequence="6">Russo-Jewish Immigrants in England before 1881 207 first Leeds Synagogue Register. In an inter? view he gave to the Yorkshire Evening Post in 1918,28 he stated: 'All of those I remember in my early days in Leeds came here as single men. Later on, men came with their wives from Russia but the early ones were single, and either married in this country or sent to Russia for brides. In my own case, I had a friend who sent to Russia for his sister and I married her.5 It was a usual thing for young fellows, when they had settled here, to send for their parents and brothers and sisters, and that is how the Jewish people made a home in Leeds. In? cidentally, Manham's daughter married the late Moses Sclare,29 the well-known Jewish Trade Union leader. There appears to have been a steady flow of individual emigrants from Russia during the reign of Nicholas I. Peddling was their main occupation in England. Sir Moses Montefiore relates in his diary30 that in 1843, he was notified that two Polish Jews (from Warsaw) were arrested in London for peddling without a licence and he intervened on their behalf. Mrs. Ayr ton Gould, the wife of the well-known English poet Gerald Gould, related at a meeting in a room at the House of Com? mons in 193531 that her grandfather, Levi Marks, was a Polish refugee and she had in her possession his pedlar's licence dated 1860. There were, however, also some immigrants in England at that time of a different category. To mention only three: Salamon Bennet, born in Polotsk, Russia, around 1780 and died in England in 1841. He was an English engraver and theologian, who wrote a considerable number of works on Biblical topics. Hirsh Filipowski, born in 1816, came to London in 1839. He was well known in England as a linguist and mathematician. He died in London in 1872. Rabbi Abraham Sussman came from Poland to England about 1840 and held the position of principal Shochet in London for many years. His grandson was the well known Anglo-Jewish historian Israel Abrahams. The Russo-Jewish immigration into England during the reign of Tsar Alexander II (1855 1881) increased considerably notwithstanding the fact that this monarch's treatment of his Jewish subjects was not, by comparison, so harsh. The main reasons for this increased immigration were: (1) The Russian defeat in the Crimean War in 1855. This brought about a great economic crisis in Russia, which particularly affected the Jewish traders and artisans, of whom many left the country. (2) The defeat of the Polish uprising against Russia in 1863. A large number of Jews took part in that uprising and were severely punished for it by the Russian Government. The Polish Jewish historian the late Dr. Jacob Shatski32 actually gives the names of 100 Jewish participants in the Polish uprising of 1863 who were either executed or pressed into the Russian Army or exiled to Siberia. It is obvious that many Jews managed to escape from the clutches of the Russian Government and emigrated to other lands. A considerable number came to England. The late Hermann Landau arrived in London from Poland in 1864. He became a wealthy banker and philanthropist, devoting his energies to helping poor Jewish immigrants. He was the principal founder and generous supporter of the Jewish Shelter. Another prominent refugee, who took part in the Polish Uprising, was Louis Smith. He escaped to France, where he lived for some years, taking part in the Paris Commune of 1871. He came to London in 1872 and in the same year organised the first Jewish Trade Union in history, of Yiddish-speaking immi? grants from East Europe, engaged in the cloth? ing trade. This Trade Union had 72 members but it did not last long. In 1874, we find him active in America, where he died at an advanced age in 1931, a highly respected member of the Labour Movement. (3) The cholera epidemic in Western Russia in 1868 and the famine in Lithuania in 1866-1869. These two disasters drove thousands of Jews from their homes and caused them to emigrate to other lands. The East Prussian towns of K?nigsberg, Memel, and Stettin were crowded with refugees from Kovno, Suwalki, Mariempol, and other Lithuanian towns, hoping to reach countries further west. Committees were formed to help them in their distress.</page><page sequence="7">208 A. R. Rollin The Rev. Alberty L?wy, first Secretary of the Anglo-Jewish Association (founded in 1871), was specially sent on behalf of his organisation, in conjunction with the Alliance Israelite Universelle, to visit East Prussia and Western Russia and report on the position there. Mr. L?wy's statement, printed in the third Annual Report of the Anglo-Jewish Association, makes very sad reading. (4) The pogrom in Odessa in 1871 and com? pulsory service in 1874. The Jewish immigrants in England considerably increased in number after the pogrom in Odessa in 1871, when large numbers of South Russian Jews left their homes. The participation of Russia in the Balkan Wars of 1875-1876 further increased the emigration of Jews from all parts of the Russian Empire. Here it must be stated that the flight of the Jews from the Russian Army was not due to lack of courage or of patriotism. The Jews have repeatedly shown both these qualities in fighting for countries which treat them humanely. (5) Jewish political refugees from Russia. In the 1870s a strong Socialist revolutionary move? ment developed among the Russian educated classes, especially among the student youth. This movement attracted a considerable number of Jewish students and intellectuals, and a group of these was formed among the students of the State Rabbinical College in Wilna. The Government started hunting down, arresting, and severely punishing the revolutionaries, including the Wilna Group, and many of them escaped abroad, some settling in London. When one of these pioneers of the Jewish Socialist Movement, Aaron Lieberman, arrived in London in 1876, he found a new type of Jewish worker, quite different from the artisan in Russia who worked on his own, or with an apprentice, direct for the customer or for sale on market days. Here in London he saw a mass of Jewish workers who had nothing but their labour to sell if they were lucky enough to find an employer. He found also among the London workers a number of political refugees, some former students of the Wilna Rabbinical College, and he decided to form a Socialist organisation with a view to building up Jewish Workers' Unions. The first meeting for that purpose took place on 20 May 1876, at the home of Louis Winer at 40 Gun Street, Norton Folgate, in the East End of London. (Winer later on became a prominent furniture manufacturer in London.) Ten founder members were pre? sent to establish the 'Hebrew Socialist Union' (the first such organisation in history). Lieber man was instructed to draw up the statutes, which he did in classical Hebrew and Yiddish, and they were accepted, after some changes, at the next meeting. There were, in all, 26 meetings of this Socialist Union, the last one being on 28 December 1876. Their main work was to organise a tailors' union, which reached a membership of 300, but this also did not last long. The reasons for these failures were the combined opposition of the master tailors, the clergy, the Jewish Chronicle, which accused the Socialists of con versionist activity,33 and also the bad tactics of Lieberman himself. The full text of the minutes of the Hebrew Socialist Union and the story of its activities were printed in the Yivo Historishe Schriften in Yiddish in 1929 (Volume I). Mr. Peter Elman referred to these at some length in his paper 'The Beginnings of the Jewish Trade Union Movement in England', read to this Society on 5 July 1948.34 I am here concerned mainly with the in? dustrial aspect of that period. Of the 38 members recorded in the minutes of the Socialist Union, 28 gave their occupations as follows: five tailor's machiners; three tailor's pressers; two tailors; six cabinet-makers; five hat and cap makers; and one each of box maker, compositor, painter, lithographer, furrier, waterproof worker, and stickmaker.35 This shows a fair cross-section of the trades in which the immigrants were employed. Had the other ten members given their occupations, there would most likely have been a couple of boot and shoe makers, cigarette makers, etc. It will be observed that there was not one who gave his occupation as hawker or old clothes dealer. This confirms the assertion made by Dr. Vivian Lipman in his Tercenten? ary essay, 'The Age of Emancipation',36 that 'the old-clothes dealers in the streets declined</page><page sequence="8">Russo-Jewish Immigrants in England before 1881 209 from 1,500 or 1,000 in London in the year 1800 to 500 by 1850, in spite of the increase in the size of the community, and there were relatively few in the street trades by 1880.' Those of the old-clothes men who did not succeed in establishing themselves by about 1860 as stall-holders or retail shopkeepers entered, as Moses Zangwill did, the newly developing mass-production industries of cloth? ing, furniture, and boot and shoe. The greatest development took place in the garment making industry following the introduction in the workshops of the mechanical sewing machine, which was shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851. The Economist of 26 June that year had prophesied that the 'astonishing velocity of the new sewing-machine would extinguish the race of tailors', but the opposite was actually the case. The new machinery and new methods of production greatly cheapened the cost of clothing, which could now be sold to innumerable new buyers at home and abroad. Here is an extract from a pamphlet published in 1860 by the firm of E. Moses and Sons, entitled 'The growth of an important branch of British Industry', in which it was claimed that '...we brought about a wholesome and import? ant revolution in our trade when we originated the new, yet ready-made clothing system. . . . The public were amazed to find that we could give ready-made suits that a Beau Brummel would have been proud to wear, at prices that a mechanic could afford to pay.' However, for the origin of the traditional wholesale clothing manufacture, which pro? duces for the home and export trade, we must go to the Leeds pioneers John Barran and Herman Friend. According to Miss Joan Thomas, in her History of the Leeds Clothing Industry 31 it was John Barran who not only installed the sewing-machine in his factory, which he opened in 1856, but also adopted the band-knife cutting machine whereby many layers of cloth could be cut at the same time, thus dispensing with many hand cutters. The making-up of the coats after they were cut and trimmed at the factory was contracted out to Herman Friend, a Russian Jewish immigrant, who was established in Leeds as a master tailor. (The trousers and vests were made at the factory.) It is Herman Friend who is credited with originating the subdivision system of making up garments whereby semi-skilled and unskilled labour can be used, thus greatly cheapening the cost of production. More factories and workshops were developed by other clothiers and master tailors on similar lines, absorbing new Jewish immigrants to Leeds. By 1881, there were in Leeds 21 clothing firms (only two Jewish), each one sub-contract? ing to one or more master tailors. The clothing industry in Leeds continued to develop to such an extent that eventually one third of that city's workers contributing to National Insurance were connected with the garment-making trades. To quote Miss Thomas again: 4A very important part of this story of the rapid rise of this new industry is concerned with Jewish immigration. The early associa? tion between John Barran and Herman Friend was to have more far-reaching con? sequences than either could have foreseen. Jewish immigration provided a nucleus of skilled tailors, a steady stream of cheap labour, and an influx of business-men who quickly realised how little capital was required to set up business in an industry in which all the equipment for manufacture could be hired. ... It should be remembered that the Jewish people had been the tailors of Europe for several centuries and they undoubtedly brought that skill with them to Leeds. The parallel that springs to mind is the much earlier immigration of Flemings, who stimulated the worsted industry of this country and whose native skill had been readily acknowledged. In addition, there was an immigration of enterprise and dex? terity which made a great impression on a young and expanding industry.' I have given this somewhat lengthy quotation because it gives a fair and objective assessment by a non-Jewish historian on the question of Jewish immigration into this country during the past century. This assessment could be applied to a number of other trades which Jews were mainly responsible for developing in this</page><page sequence="9">210 A. R. Rollin country. The foundations of those trades were laid down by the early immigrants who came here before 1881. The more enterprising of them established themselves as employers in about five years after arriving here. Others took two or three times as long. Here are extracts from some replies to my inquiries: Mr. Charles Abrahams, Managing Director of Aquascutum Ltd., of Regent Street, W.l, which is associated with George West Ltd., of Oxford Street, W.l, writes: 'My grandfather arrived in this country between 1875 and 1880 from Poland due to antisemitism in that country at that time. He originally worked for a firm called Birnbaum till about 1885 and had founded his own business afterwards'. Mr. Alexander Froomberg, director of John Fairdale Ltd., of Kingsland Road, E.8, cloth? ing manufacturers, and of Froomberg Bros. Ltd., textile merchants, writes: 'My paternal grandfather arrived in this country from Poland in 1867 and commenced business on his own account, ten years later. He employed in those days between 40 and 50 people. I am sorry I have no documents I can send you but trust this information will be of use to you.' Mr. Froomberg's grandfather had his work? shop in Prince's Street (now Princelet Street), off Brick Lane, E. 1. In the same street there was also the large tailoring workshop of Mark Moses, the father of Miss Miriam Moses, o.b.e., j.p. Mr. Moses was President of the Master Tailors' Society, and in this capacity he gave interesting evidence before the Select Committee of the House of Lords on the Sweating System in July 1888. In his evidence (which is fully printed 'for private circulation'), Mr. Moses denies the wild accusations made against the East End 'sweaters', as the master tailors were called. There certainly was a great deal of sweating in the hundreds of small tailoring workshops in London with less than ten workers, but these master tailors generally sweated themselves more than their employees and often did not earn more than their top workers, if as much. Those who derived the benefit from this system were the wholesale clothiers, of whom, at that time, only about 10 per cent were Jewish firms. (Kelly*s Directory for London for the year 1881 lists over 80 wholesale clothing houses, of which only about eight or nine were Jewish). This system did not in any way adversely affect the position of the English tailors. In Booth's Life and Labour of the People he declares that 'the ready-made clothing trade is not an invasion on the employment of the English tailor but an industrial discovery.' On the question of the Mantle and Costume trade in this country, there is an interesting quotation from the German periodical Neue ?eit, No. 39, for 1893, given by the late Joseph Finn in his booklet A Voice from the Aliens. The writer in the German journal explains to his readers that 'the cause of the diminution of the mantle trade in Germany is the transference of the trade to England by Russian and Polish Jews'. As for sweating in the clothing industry, English Labour historians have stated that it existed in this and in other trades in Britain long before the immigration of Jewish industrial workers. The British Labour Movement gave its full sympathy to the Jewish workers in their struggle to improve their conditions. During the Leeds Jewish tailors' strike of 1888, affect? ing about 3,000 workers (including 500 non Jewish girls employed in Jewish shops), the strikers were supported by the local leaders of the Amalgamated Society of Tailors, the old English craft union. A Leeds poet, T. McGuire, wrote a special poem for the strikers' benefit, the last stanza of which reads as follows: When every worker in every trade in Britain and everywhere Whether he labours by needle or spade shall gather in his rightful share. This strike lasted several weeks and, inci? dentally, according to the booklet by Finn already mentioned, the Yorkshire woollen mills were put on short time for that period. The men who led that strike were Jewish immigrants who came before 1881 and formed a short-lived Tailors' Union in Leeds in 1875. The strike of the London Jewish tailors in</page><page sequence="10">Russo-Jewish Immigrants in England before 1881 211 1889 coincided with the great dock strike for the 'Docker's Tanner' (their demand for 6d. per hour), and Jewish and Gentile workers marched together in their processions through the London streets. In the balance-sheet of that tailors' strike, we find a donation of ?100 from the Dock Labourers' Strike Committee and smaller sums from several other English Trade Unions. This fraternal intermingling of Jewish and Gentile workers helped a great deal to reduce antisemitism in this country. The leaders of this tailors' strike were William Wess, Secretary, who came to England from Lithu? ania in 1878, and Lewis Lyons, Chairman, born in London, whose parents had come from Russia. The immigrants from the Russian Empire before 1881 also founded their own synagogues, their study circles for religious and secular education, their friendly societies and other organisations of a charitable character. The first modern Yiddish weekly, Der Polisher Tidel, was founded in London in 1884 by two immigrants, Morris Winchevsky and E. A. Rabinowitch, who came to London in 1879. The Editor, Winchevsky, was a highly cultured Lithuanian Jew who had been very popular in Russia as a progressive Hebrew writer under the pen-name of Ben-Netz. E. A. Rabinowitch opened a printing shop and was later a well known Zionist. Winchevsky had the good fortune to meet the Rev. Albert L?wy, who admired his intelli? gence and education and recommended him for a post at Seligman Brothers, the bankers. He worked there, under the adopted name of Benedict, for 14 years until 1894, when he left for America. The official census figure of Russians and Poles (almost all Jews) in Britain for 1881 was 15,271. Add to this, say, 3,000 Rumanian and Galician Jews and about one or two thousand of the floating immigrant population, that is, young men and women in temporary lodgings, who hoped soon to proceed to the United States and who were most likely not included in the census return, and you will get around 20,000 East European immigrants, more than half of whom were in London. This comparatively small number of immi* grants, less than a third of the total Jewish population in Britain at that time, are of great importance in Anglo-Jewish history. With their hard work, sweat, and suffering, they helped to lay the foundation of the economic and social structure which eventually absorbed the tens of thousands of immigrants who fled from the pogroms and persecution in Russia, Rumania, Germany, and other coun? tries. Our early Russian immigrants in the 1860s and 1870s were the pioneers in the Anglo Jewish Industrial Revolution which completely changed the image of our community. We have reason to be thankful to them, particularly for the way in which they opened their homes, their hearts, and their pockets to large numbers of immigrants who came to Britain after the Russian pogroms of 1881. Unfortunately, once again, I have to deplore the attitude of the wealthy, Anglicised leaders of the community towards these immigrants. These leaders were responsible for the admini? stration of the substantial Mansion House Fund, raised as a result of a great protest meeting against the pogroms, called by the Lord Mayor of London. They were also responsible for administering the aid given by the Jewish Board of Guardians, and a Conjoint Committee was formed to deal with the applications for assistance by immigrants who had no relations or landsleute in London. These victims of the Russian pogroms were not treated with the sympathy and compassion they deserved. The immigrants from Russia were generally considered as inferior beings who might degrade Anglo-Jewry, and were in every way discouraged from settling in Britain. Dr. Vivian Lipman, in his History of the Jewish Board of Guardians (London),38 writes that 'the Board were always hampered by the fear that if they developed their services too far, they might be a positive inducement to immigrants'. Many of the applicants were sent on to America and other countries, and a large number were even repatriated back to Russia. Advertisements were regularly inserted in the Hebrew and Yiddish newspapers in Russia warning prospective immigrants against com? ing to England. However, this unpleasant chapter in the history of London Jewry belongs</page><page sequence="11">212 A. R. Rollin to the post-1881 period, and I hope to relate it separately at some other time. As an epilogue, I want to quote a passage from an essay by Lucien Wolf printed origin? ally in Young Israel in 1897 and reprinted in his Essays in Jewish History, edited by Dr. Roth and published by this Society in 1934*. 4 So far from the foreign Jew degrading the English community, he has been raised very nearly to its level. His children have grown up in our schools and such is the flexibility of the Jewish character, in the next generation, no traces will remain of the foreign immigration which caused so much anxiety between 1880 and 1890, save perhaps a strengthening of the religious sentiment of the community.' How prophetic these words were! If, by some miracle, Israel Zangwill, the centenary of whose birth is now being cele brated, and Lucien Wolf, the first President of this Society, could come to life again and survey the present affluent Jewish community, especi? ally in London, they would be pleasantly amused to find the remarkable changes that have taken place. They would find that the leadership of Anglo-Jewry is no longer the preserve of a comparatively small circle of wealthy, Anglicised Jewish families. They would find that the Presidents of the Board of Deputies, of the Anglo-Jewish Association, of the United Synagogue, of the Board of Jewish Religious Education, of the Bnai Brith, and of our own Historical Society are the first genera? tion of British Jews, whose fathers came to Britain as immigrants from Russia. *** This paper was delivered to the Society on 8 January 1964. NOTES 1 J.H.S.E. Trans. XX, pp. 215-231. 2 See Jewish Encyclopedia (Funk and Wagnall), Vol. Ill, s.v. Caucasus, pp. 628-629; Vol. X, s.v. Russia, p. 518. 3 See The Jews in the Modern World, Arthur Ruppin, Ph.D. (Macmillan, 1934), p. 22. See also Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. II, s.v. Armenia; Vol. VII, Kiev. 4 See History of the Jews, H. Graetz (Myers, London, 1914), pp. 125-126; 140 ff. 5 Ibid., pp. 141ff. 6 Ibid., p. 143. 7 See Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. IV, s.v. Chazars; Graetz, History of the Jews, Vol. Ill, p. 225. 8 See J.E., Vol. VII, s.v. Kiev, p. 488. 9 History of the Jews, by Simon Dubnow (Maizel, New York, Yiddish edition, 1924), Vol. 3, p. 132f. See also J.E., Vol. X, p. 566. 10 H. Graetz, History of the Jews (Myers, London, 1914), Vol. V, p. 3. 11 See Jewish Encyclopedia (Funk and Wagnall, 1903), Vol. IV, pp. 39-40 (s.v. Chmielnicki, Bogdan Zinovi); pp. 284-286 (s.v. Cossacks' uprising). 12 See H. Graetz, History of the Jews (1914), Vol. V, pp. 7ff. 13 History of the Jews, Dubnow (op. cit.), Vol. 3, p. 195. 14 See Graetz, History of the Jews (London), Vol. V, pp. 16-17. 15 Sir Moses Montefiore, whose family came from Leghorn, evidently inherited this philan? thropic virtue. 16 'The First Stage of Emancipation', in Essays in Jewish History (J.H.S.E., ed. Cecil Roth, 1934), pp. 122-123. 17 Sketches of Anglo-Jewish History, ed. Israel Finestein, Soncino Press edition, 1956, p. 40. 18 Op. cit., pp. 193-195. 19 Ibid. 20 History of the Jews in England, by Cecil Roth (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1964,3rd ed.), Chap. XI, p. 241 and footnotes. 21 See J.E., Vol. X, p. 575. 22 See Jewish Labour in the U.S.A., by Melech Epstein (Trade Union Sponsoring Committee, New York, 1950), pp. 3-4. This form of recruiting was abolished in 1856 after the death of Tsar Nicolas I. See also J.E., Vol. II, s.v. Cantonists, p. 128. 23 See 'Russo-Polish Immigrants in America', in History of the Jewish Labour Movement in America (Yivo, 1943), Vol. I, p. 66. 24 See Israel ?angwill, by Joseph Leftwich (James Clarke, London, 1957), Chap. Ill, p. 72. 25 Dr. Eder was a prominent psychiatrist and one of the first disciples of Sigmund Freud. 26 Joseph Cowen was a prosperous garment manufacturer who helped Dr. Theodor Herzl to propagate Zionism in Britain. He was one of the founders of the English Zionist Federation. 27 History of the Sunderland Jewish Community 1755-1955, by Arnold Levy (Macdonald, London, 1956), p. 94. 28 See Short History of Leeds Jewry, by Louis Saipe, 1956. 29 Moses Sclare came to Glasgow from Odessa in 1889, working as an engineer. Active in the trade union and Labour movements, he was elected General Secretary, in 1906, of the Amal? gamated Jewish Tailors, Machiners, and Pressers' Trade Union in Leeds, in succession to S. Freedman,</page><page sequence="12">Russo-Jewish Immigrants in England before 1881 213 retired. The union amalgamated with five others in 1915 to form what is now the National Union of Tailors and Garment Workers. The Leeds Jewish union had its own fine building and 14 branches in other provincial towns. Mr. Sclare was an official at the Head Office of the National Union until he retired. 30 Diaries of Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore, Vol. I, p. 318. 31 See Israel ZanSw^ (Leftwich), p. 87. 32 See Jews in the Polish Uprising of 1863' (Historishe Schriften, Yivo, Vilna, 1929), Vol. I, pp. 428-468. 33 See J.C., 8 September 1876, article 'Another Gonversionist Trick'. 34 See Transactions J.H.S.E., Vol. XVII, 1953, pp. 53ff. 35 Historishe Schriften, pp. 537-538. 36 Three Centuries of Anglo-Jewish History (Jewish Historical Society of England and W. Heffer and Sons, 1961, ed. V. D. Lipman), p. 75. 37 Published January, 1955, jointly by the Department of Economics of the Universities of Hull, Leeds, and Sheffield. 38 A Century of Social Service 1859-1959, by V. D. Lipman (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1959), p. 110.</page></plain_text>